Statoil widens natural gas capture project in North Dakota it says will cut gas flaring rates

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WILLISTON, North Dakota — Norwegian oil company Statoil plans to widen a natural gas capture program in North Dakota's oil fields, a move the company says will reduce flaring.

The program, started earlier this year in partnership with General Electric and Ferus Natural Gas Fuels, allows Statoil to use natural gas that would otherwise be burned off.

Natural gas is a valuable byproduct of oil production, but without infrastructure in place to capture, use or transport the natural gas, it is burned off. The program allows natural gas to be captured at well sites, compressed, cleaned and delivered by specialized trucks directly to drilling rigs where it can be used to fuel the machinery.

In a statement Wednesday, the three companies announced that the project would expand, potentially powering all six of Statoil's drilling rigs in the state.

Statoil spokeswoman Kirsten Henricksen said the company is currently flaring about 30 percent of gas it produces in North Dakota, but that the expansion of the project could reduce flaring by three to five percent.

The companies say this system will cut emissions and save money.

The pace of oil development in North Dakota has often outpaced infrastructure and the state currently burns off around 30 percent of the gas it produces. That figure is much higher than the national flaring rate of about 1 percent or the global flaring rate of about 3 percent. At times, North Dakota has had a flaring rate as high as 36 percent.

In July, the North Dakota Industrial Commission adopted new regulations that call for oil companies to reduce flaring rates to 26 percent by Oct. 1 and 10 percent by 2020. Companies that do not comply could see the state reduce the amount of oil they're allowed to produce.

In June, the latest month for which figures are available, North Dakota was still flaring 28 percent of the gas it produced.

In a statement, Mike Hosford, general manager of GE Oil and Gas' Distributed Gas Solutions, said "our project with Statoil demonstrates how we can help other operators comply with increasingly strict regulations governing the flaring of gas in the United States and around the world."

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